For many queer folx, the self-realization of their sexual orientation or gender identity can prompt a change in community. When it comes to faith communities, some drop them like hot rocks, while others turn to more progressive circles. But for some of us? For some of us, there’s a draw to orthodoxy that we just can’t explain.
Are we self-hating?
I think that reparative therapy is the worst idea in the world, and I’m happily engaged to another woman. And yet, I find myself adhering to more conservative religious dress standards and looking forward to covering my hair after marriage. I have seen glimpses of others like me online — the ba’al teshuvah lesbian on Tumblr who actively dates women; the queer “frum from birth” Jew who got a tattoo to commemorate his struggle with traditional Torah observance; the genderqueer Muslim I went to school with who wears a hijab; the Seventh Day Adventist and Pentecostal LGBTQ activists who blog for other queers in their denominations.
The thing about being queer is that it can happen to anyone, in any community — that’s the luck of the draw when you’re born that way. Maybe there’s less support when you stick with something more traditional. Maybe, though, you’re just not looking hard enough if you think there aren’t others like you.
I read an article recently about a gay pastor in a more conservative denomination who kept his sexuality a secret for years, only to find his best friend kept it a secret for just as long. They both found out the other was gay during the height of the AIDS epidemic in the ’80s. The pastor questioned his friend, “Why didn’t you tell me? That knowledge could have meant that I would feel less alone.”
It probably confuses some people that a queer or trans* person would involve themselves in a community that isn’t openly accepting of LGBTQ people or rights. In fact, it confuses me sometimes (and I’m one of them). But when you spend your whole life receiving flak because of something that you have no control over, you develop a thick skin. You get used to it. You expect it, even. And so maybe you surround yourself with more progressive work and hobby communities.
Maybe you’re in an area where these things don’t exist, so you just make sure your friends are open and affirming. Or maybe you’re still in the closet, with only your lover bearing your secret with you. But you’re drawn to that ole time religion, and you know, you feel it, that there are others out there like you. Other people in your church or temple or mosque, even. It could be the pastor, it could be the person sitting next to you, it could be the person who decided to beard themselves with a wife and kids. It could be anyone!
A lot has been said in the Offbeat Empire about non-traditional and progressive religions. And they are all fantastic faiths to be a part of (and if you’re an atheist or secular humanist, that’s great too!). But some of us are pulled toward the traditional, the conservative, the orthodox. We exist. We don’t hate ourselves. We had that epiphany where we realized our more traditional interpretation of God loves us as we are.
We practice, we love, we blog, we get tattoos, we cover our hair, we advocate. We prove that there isn’t just one way to be queer, or one way to be religious. We are brave. And sometimes, we shed the labels and we just are.